Actor Irrfan Khan Loses Battle With Cancer, Dies In Mumbai Hospital
Irrfan Khan at a recording in a studio. (Photo: Irrfan Khan/Facebook)

Actor Irrfan Khan Loses Battle With Cancer, Dies In Mumbai Hospital

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Irrfan Khan, as much at home in the philosophical Hollywood' film The Life of Pi as in mainstream Bollywood's Piku, died on Wednesday after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 54.

Irrfan, one of India's finest and most versatile actors, is survived by his wife Sutapa and his sons Babil and Ayaan.

The actor, who died at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, was buried at the Versova graveyard around 3 p.m. in the presence of his family and friends such as directors Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Bhardwaj. The numbers were restricted in view of the nationwide lockdown. This is the second tragedy for the family in less than a week.

The Maqbool actor lost his mother, 95-year-old Saeeda Begum, in Jaipur just four days ago and could not attend the funeral because of the lockdown.

Irrfan, that rare artiste who straddled multiple worlds, making his mark in both international and Indian cinema in roles intense and light-hearted, was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Kokilaben Hospital with a colon infection.

The Rajasthan born actor, who was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumour in 2018, a rare form of cancer that attacks various parts of the body, was surrounded by his loved ones in his last moments.

News of the death of the actor -- the antithesis of the conventional image of a star with his understated approach to his work and fame -- was confirmed by his family in a statement. I trust, I have surrendered, the family recalled him as saying when he was diagnosed with the disease.

There was an outpouring of grief from all quarters, including politicians, sport stars, civil servants as well as his colleagues and his many fans in India and abroad. President Ram Nath Kovind said the actor was a "rare talent and his characters will always be remembered by the audiences.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Irrfan will be remembered for his versatile performances across different mediums. His demise is a loss to the world of cinema and theatre, Modi wrote on Twitter.

Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar described Irrfan as his favourite actor. He was one of my favorites & I've watched almost all his films, the last one being Angrezi Medium. Acting came so effortlessly to him, he was just terrific, Sachin tweeted.

Irrfan's family said the actor fought till the very end. It's saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away. Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him. After having been struck by lightning in 2018 with the news of a rare cancer, he took life soon after as it came and he fought the many battles that came with it, the statement read.

"Piku" director Shoojit Sircar doffed his hat to the actor's fighting spirit. "My dear friend Irrfan. You fought and fought and fought. I will always be proud of you.. we shall meet again.. condolences to Sutapa and Babil.. you too fought, Sutapa you gave everything possible in this fight. Peace and Om shanti. Irfaan Khan salute," the director said on Twitter.

"Piku" co-star Amitabh Bachchan remembered Irrfan as an "incredible talent" and a gracious colleague. "... A prolific contributor to the World of Cinema... left us too soon... creating a huge vacuum...," Bachchan tweeted.

Those who had worked with the actor remembered the "warm smile" and "magical talent" of a man with a formidable body of work, including "Maqbool", "The Namesake", "Life of Pi", "Paan Singh Tomar" and "Haasil".

He made his mark in world cinema too with a filmography that includes "A Mighty Heart", "Darjeeling Express", "Partition", "The Slumdog Millionaire", "The Amazing Spider-Man", "The Life of Pi" and "Jurassic World".

Shah Rukh Khan, who worked with Irrfan in Billu, said, "My friend...inspiration & the greatest actor of our times. Allah bless your soul Irrfan bhai...will miss you as much as cherish the fact that you were part of our lives... Love you."

Vishal Bhardwaj, one of the early people to recognize Irrfan's quiet intensity and use it to great effect in Maqbool, said the news was devastating. "I feared that he will be gone much before his time but didn't expect that it will be so devastating and ravaging to me personally. It feels as if I am torn into two parts. A part of me has died with him," Bhardwaj told PTI.

The self-effacing National Award winner, who slipped in unnoticed and effortlessly into his many characters across multiple film genres, had stayed away from the public eye after his diagnosis in 2018 when he went to the U.K. for treatment. On March 5, 2018 that Irrfan revealed that he was suffering from "a rare disease". In a philosophical note to his fans on Twitter, the actor wrote, I have never given up and have always fought for my choices and always will," he had said.

Ten days later, the actor shared that he had been diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour and would go abroad for the treatment. He returned home in 2019 and managed to shoot for "Angrezi Medium", the sequel to his 2017 hit "Hindi Medium". Ahead of the trailer launch of "Angrezi Medium", he resurfaced on social media and said he would be sitting out the movie promotions due to his health. "Enjoy the trailer and be kind to each other and watch the film. And yes, wait for me." The words linger on.

In his last interview with PTI earlier this year ahead of the release of Angrezi Medium, the actor said the outpouring of love from his fans felt like a blessing. "The wishes from all over is like a feeling as if you are walking in the rain and you are not carrying any change of clothes and someone you don't even know takes you inside his umbrella just like that," he said. The film hit the theatres in March just before the lockdown that began on March 25.

The actor was honoured with Padma Shri in 2011.

In Ang Lee'sThe Life of Pi, Irrfan's character, Pi or Piscine Molitor Patel, says, "I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye." "He has gone too soon," was the refrain on Wednesday as fans and colleagues across the world mourned a man who leaves behind a legacy of good cinema and extraordinary talent.

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